Private School Regulation


Registration/Licensing/Accreditation: The Board of Education does not accredit private schools. The Virginia Council for Private Education (VCPE), a private umbrella organization of associations whose membership is comprised of private schools, accredits private schools. The Board recognizes accreditation by VCPE member organizations.

Schools for students with disabilities must be licensed by the Board of Education unless otherwise approved or accredited. School facilities must be inspected and approved by the Board. At least one unannounced inspection of each residential school for children with disabilities must be made annually. Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-319 et seq.

Recordkeeping/Reports: Every teacher in Virginia must keep an accurate daily record of attendance of children enrolled. The record must be open for inspection and may be admitted into evidence for prosecutions of violations of the compulsory school attendance laws. Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-259.

Schools must record each student's immunizations on the school immunization record provided by the State Department of Health for the student's permanent record. The record must be kept open for inspection by the State Department of Health and the local health department. Within 30 days of the start of school, private schools must file a report with the local health department stating the number of students admitted with documentary proof of immunization, the number of students admitted with a medical or religious exemption, and the number of students conditionally admitted. Va. Code Ann. §§ 22.1-271.2E.

Length of School Year/Day: Virginia's compulsory attendance laws require children to attend school, public, private, denomination or parochial, during the period of each year the public schools are in session and for the same number of days and hours per day as the public schools. The length of the school term for public schools is 180 days or 990 hours. Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-254.

Discrimination: Private educational institutions that accept state funds may not deny admission, full and equal access, or the enjoyment of any educational or extracurricular program to an otherwise qualified person with a disability. Va. Code Ann. § 51.5-42.

Special Education: A school division may publicly place a disabled child in a nonsectarian private school approved by the Board of Education or another licensing agency if the school division is unable to provide a free appropriate public education for the child. Placements identified on a child’s Individualized Education Program are paid out of the locality’s Comprehensive Services Act State Pool of Funds. Va. Code Ann. §§ 22.1-218A and 22.1-745 et seq. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq. does not require Virginia to place handicapped children in nonapproved private schools. Schimmel ex rel. Schimmel v. Spillane, 819 F.2d 477 (4th Cir. 1987).

Health: No student may be admitted by a school unless the student submits documentary proof of immunization, an affidavit stating the immunizations conflict with the student's religious tenets, or certification from a physician that the immunization is detrimental to the student's health. Students may be admitted conditionally if their immunizations are incomplete and they submit a schedule for completion within 90 days. The State Health Commissioner has the authority to exclude children from school who are not immunized in the event of an outbreak, potential epidemic, or epidemic. Va. Code Ann. § 321-47.

The State Health Commissioner has the authority to inspect dining accommodations of private schools upon presentation of credentials and consent by the owner. Va. Code Ann. § 35.1-1; 35.1-5.

Safety: Employees of private schools who have reason to suspect that a child is an abused or neglected child must report the matter immediately to the local social services department of the county/city where the child resides or where the alleged abuse occurred. Va. Code Ann. § 63.1-248.3.

It is a criminal offense in Virginia to distribute any controlled substance, imitation controlled substance, or marijuana on the property of a private elementary or secondary school, within 1,000 feet of the school, or on any school bus. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-255.2A.

Virginia's criminal code prohibits 1) the willful discharge of a firearm, unless justifiable by law; 2) brandishing a firearm in such a manner as to reasonably induce fear of being shot or injured; and 3) possession of a stun weapon, taser, or weapon other than a firearm, in any private or parochial elementary, middle or high school or within 1,000 feet of the school. Va. Code Ann. §§ 18.2-280B; 18.2-282A; 18.2-308.1.

It is a misdemeanor to possess a beeper or similar portable communications device on the grounds of any private elementary, middle or secondary school. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-322.1A.

The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board may refuse to grant a liquor license if the location of the applicant would adversely affect the operations of a private or parochial school. Va. Code Ann. § 4.1-222.

The governing board of a private school must furnish protective eye devices, free or at cost, for students, teachers, and visitors participating in specified vocational or industrial arts shops or laboratories. Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-275.

All applicants for full-time, part-time, permanent and/or temporary employment at an accredited private school are required to submit to fingerprinting and to provide personal descriptive information to be forwarded along with the applicant’s fingerprints through the Central Criminal Records Exchange to the FBI for the purpose of obtaining criminal history record information as a condition of employment. This is not a requirement for non-accredited schools. Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-296.3.

Transportation: Parochial and private schools may not hire a school bus driver unless the individual meets the qualifications required of public school bus drivers and presents the necessary documentation. Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-180.

School buses transporting pupils to and from private or parochial schools, may not discharge pupils in a manner that the child must cross a highway with two or more roadways separated by a physical barrier or unpaved area, or a highway with five or more lanes with the center lane a flush median marked for turning traffic only. Va. Code Ann. § 46.2-918.

Home Schooling: Parents are permitted to provide home instruction in lieu of school attendance if they meet any one of the following four conditions. The teaching parent: 1) holds a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution of higher education; 2) meets the qualifications for a teacher prescribed by the board of education; 3) enrolls the child or children in a correspondence course approved by the Superintendent of Public Instruction; or 4) provides a program of study or curriculum which, in the judgment of the division superintendent, includes the standards of learning objectives adopted by the Board of Education for language arts (English) and mathematics and provides evidence that the parent is able to provide an adequate education for the child. Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-254.1

By August 1, the parent is required to submit evidence of the child’s academic achievement in one of the following ways: 1) Evidence that the child has attained a composite score in or above the fourth stanine on a batter of achievement tests approved for use in the public schools; or 2) An evaluation or assessment which, in the judgment of the division superintendent, indicates that the child is achieving an adequate level of education growth and progress. Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-254.1 (C).

Local school boards may permit part-time attendance of home schooled and private school students. Students may be allowed to enroll in classes in English, mathematics, science, history/social science, foreign language, vocational education, and fine arts. Participation in certain interscholastic activities such as varsity sports is governed by policies of the Virginia High School League. Other extracurricular activities are governed by policies of the local school board.

It is not required that children being taught at home be allowed to participate in extra-curricular or special programs offered by the school division. In the absence of program guidelines for the specific request, local school board policy prevails.

Public Aid for Private Schools/Private School Students: Under Virginia's constitution, no appropriation may be made to any school not owned or exclusively controlled by the State or a political subdivision; provided, the General Assembly may make appropriations for the elementary and secondary education of Virginia students in nonsectarian private schools. Va. Const. Art. VIII, Section 10.

Property owned by nonprofit institutions of learning and used primarily for educational purposes is exempt from State and local taxation. Va. Const. Art. X, Section 6(4).

Private, nonprofit nonsectarian schools are entitled to a refund on taxes paid for fuels used to transport children to and from school and educational or athletic activities. Va. Code Ann. § 58.2-2122.

Miscellaneous: By statute, one private school librarian serves on the nine-member State Networking Users Advisory Board to advise the State Librarian and the State Library Board on policies, standards, funding levels and requirements for use. Va. Code Ann. § 42.1-32.7.

Fairfax, Arlington, Dinwiddie and Prince George counties are authorized to tax admission charged for attendance at private elementary and secondary school-sponsored events, including events sponsored by school-recognized student organizations. Va. Code Ann. §§ 58.1-3817; 58.1-3818.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, 1999 - This information is presented for research use only and should not be construed as legal advice.  Please consult an attorney for further information.